Sunday 26 February 2017

Success boosts hopes of a return for landmark agricultural event

Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

THE Royal Dublin Society (RDS) wants to bring back a landmark agricultural show -- almost 20 years after the demise of the Spring Show.

As the Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show attracted a strong crowd of close to 15,000 on its opening day yesterday, RDS chief executive Michael Duffy said there was a strong desire to reinstate a signature agricultural event.

The last Spring Show was held in 1992, as dwindling participation and access issues brought an end to the annual fixture.

However, Mr Duffy said there was a strong interest among members in finding the right formula for a new landmark agricultural event that would bridge the urban/rural divide.

"We are looking at it ourselves to see if we can come up with something that is relevant and would be supported, and achieve the society's aim of advancing agriculture," he said.

Advance ticket sales for this year's Horse Show are 6pc higher than in 2010, when 100,000 visitors attended.

And Mr Duffy insisted that although the majority of tickets were purchased on the day, the omens were good for this week's event, which runs until Sunday.

Organisers had been mindful of the economic climate in freezing ticket prices for the last two years, with family tickets costing €50 to €54 proving particularly popular.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Andrew Montague arrived by carriage to open the show yesterday, 20 years after he first worked at it as a newly qualified vet.

"Ireland is one of the great horse nations of the world, and it's an important industry and something we can rightly be proud of, with huge economic benefits," he said.

This year's Horse Show is costing the RDS €4m to stage, but it supports an industry that employs 22,000 people on a full- and part-time basis and is worth €400m to the economy.

The RDS takes on 300 temporary workers for its duration, on top of its 65 permanent staff, with 500 volunteers also working in stewarding and other positions.

The RDS has had to weather the tougher economic climate felt by all event venues -- but despite competition from Dublin's new Convention Centre, it has still attracted two of the top five conferences held in Ireland this year.

Congress

It will also host the International Eucharist Congress, which is expected to attract 20,000 delegates next June, the first time the Catholic gathering has been held in Ireland since 1932.

To underpin its successful alliance as the home venue of the Leinster rugby team, it plans to boost capacity in the RDS Main Arena from 18,500 to 23,000 by redeveloping the Anglesea Stand over the next two years.

Mr Duffy said the RDS had carried out a strategic analysis of its activities which found it attracted 1.5 million visitors and was worth over €600m a year to the economy in terms of direct and indirect spending.

"We have an economic benefit of €620m and we don't cost the taxpayer a cent," he added.

The RDS generated a surplus of €1.3m last year after funding its foundation activities.

"We're a charity, we don't exist to generate profit, the surplus is necessary to maintain the fabric of the society and to invest in commercial activities to fund the society," Mr Duffy said.

Irish Independent

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